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Are You Your Child's Worst Critic? Part 1

Parenting is tough, it really is. Parenting is one of those things in life where you are never given a proper tutorial and handbook to start, especially when you are expecting your first child. As humans, we sometimes act out of emotions, or we do things in the moment without being aware of the actual consequences that our actions might lead to. Sometimes we even say or do something that is well-intended, but not always well-received.

Parents are no different. It can be easy to believe that something is the right thing to do, not knowing that it could mentally hurt or damage a child in the process.

Below are some aspects of parenting that might shed some light on this matter:

The fine line between constructive criticism and belittlement

What are you doing wrong, how and why?

A prevalent phenomenon within our Asian community is that parents often try to motivate their child by slightly poking or nudging at their shortcomings and weaknesses. As harmless as it may seem, and in line with the Chinese saying “A lake is formed by several centuries of raindrops,” some statements can actually build up and ultimately form some kind of emotional blockage within the child. Mindless criticising will probably not work on every single child either.

See also: Are You a Helicoper Parent? Part 1

As a child, I was endlessly drilled by my teacher at school regarding my study performance. I was not enjoying school and I loathed the idea of waking up at 6am every day just to be pelted with criticism. My father, however, took a different approach. By exposing me to intriguing science TV series or non-academic books, he instilled a thirst of knowledge within me.

Sure, from time to time he would poke fun at me during my lazier days and bring out the competitive nature in me, in a decent manner of course, and in a way that did not psychologically hurt or damage me.

We need to keep a check on what kind of criticism is used as a motivational tool—how much constructive criticism is used, and to what extent it is used before it becomes toxic and detrimental.

Use empathy for better communication

What are you doing wrong, how and why?

To an adult, we are much more capable of handling and identifying emotions, whether in the workplace, among peers or in family settings.

Though a child experiences the same range of emotions as we do, they are still incapable and inexperienced to fully understand and have control over their feelings. Because of this, a child might feel more overwhelmed by their emotions and have a harder time managing them.

Another personal experience of mine is when my father used to point out my mistakes and say something along the lines of, “you have ugly handwriting, how would you expect people to read what you write?”. Fast forward 15 years, and I noticed that he began to say things in a much more cordial manner, like “the way you wrote this essay is good, but something seems to be off the mark.” The distinction of the tone and emphasis on the message between the two statements is pretty self-explanatory. At the end of the day, it’s not really what you say, but how you say it.

Unhealthy comparisons breed undesirable obsessions

What are you doing wrong, how and why?

Every time you compare them to Nancy staying next door getting straight As, or Jim staying down the street who is the captain of the football team, your child will become so fixated on becoming just like them that they gradually lose touch of their core personalities and their uniqueness. Your child might start scorings As, but over-competitiveness is never a good thing. Eventually a child might develop malicious tendencies to get rid of anyone in their way just to achieve a goal, and in a sense be less empathetic and compassionate than how they initially were.

There are a lot of other factors that play a role, including hereditary traits, social experiences, habits, traumatic encounters, major shifts in environments... Ultimately, great parenting comes when there is balance and moderation. Everything will fall into place as long as the right amount of effort is channeled into the right places.

For more on this, look out for part two of this mini-series this week!

Terry is a Law student, studying at Wellington, New Zealand. He holds deep ardor for cyber security politics and international legal affairs. In his spare time, Terry is a fitness and music enthusiast. He can play 7 instruments - a jack of all trades, yet a master of none.





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